It was neglected for decades, cluttered with broken flagstones and debris and crowded by low-hanging branches and a broad-armed laundry pole.  Now the yard behind the parish center for Ascension Catholic Church in Oak Park is an inviting community space, edged with flowers and ready to host quiet discussions and social gatherings.

Jackson Tanner, a Boy Scout from Troop 2 in Oak Park, led the all-day beautification effort on April 28, which is his capstone project to earn the rank of Eagle Scout.

“I could really see the potential in this space,” said Tanner, 15, a member of the church and a freshman at Oak Park and River Forest High School. In cooperation with the church’s maintenance committee, he planned the renovation, raised funds for supplies and recruited about 20 volunteers, including many scouts from his troop and several Girl Scouts from Troop 41525.

“Beginning next year, girls will be able to achieve the rank of Eagle Scout, so I thought it would be nice for girls to see what an Eagle project is like in case they want to earn that rank someday,” Tanner said.

The building at 808 S. East Avenue originally was a convent and became the parish center in the 1970s, said Bob Kane, chair of the maintenance committee.  The backyard was primarily used for outdoor storage because of a noisy condenser behind the building. The condenser was moved to the roof last year.

“We’re hoping this area can be used for reflection, as a more private spot for discussions and study groups,” says Kane. “This will be a much more useable space for the parish.”

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